All Christians should beware: With the relentless attacks on Christmas from the American left, there will soon come a time when it will no longer be socially acceptable or even safe to celebrate Christmas. Holiday cheer will be outlawed, Christmas trees burned and all ornaments smashed.
If this sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. Although the religious right points to various incidents around the country where Christmas is “under attack,” they really amount to nothing more than a random smattering of instances where someone was a bit too sensitive about possibly offending religious minorities. Luckily, the Fox News Channel is on the scene to frame every ACLU victory for religious freedom as an assault on Christmas.
It’s true, we’ve come a long way in this country. No longer is it acceptable to make every student gather in public schools to sing Christmas carols. “Happy Holidays” has replaced “Merry Christmas” as the traditional greeting between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
Though it’s interpreted as an attack on Christmas by some, this progress really is just a shining example of what’s best about America. Rather than assuming that everyone is Christian and celebrates Christmas, popular culture has adapted to include respect for minorities.
To someone used to saying and hearing “Merry Christmas” their whole life, it might seem silly that anyone would feel uncomfortable with the greeting. It makes a big difference on the receiving end, however, when a member of a religious minority hears “Happy Holidays” instead. These two words, I feel, symbolize the Christmas spirit. They say to the recipient that “while I’m not sure of your religious background, whatever it is I accept it, and I hope your holidays are joyous.”
The underlying premise of American freedom is that no one should face exclusion from any aspect of society simply because of their race, political ideas or religion. As a Jewish child attending public schools, I did feel uncomfortable when it was time to gather and sing Christmas carols. I wondered why I was at school; was it to get an education or have it reinforced that I was inherently different from my classmates? The worst was when the one or two Jewish kids in the class along with the occasional Muslim were asked to remain behind when the Christian children (90 percent of the class) went to the auditorium to sing Christmas carols. How degrading.
With the overwhelming majority of our citizens identifying themselves as Christians, it’s absurd to think that a Christian holiday “is under attack.” Framing the changing attitudes about the holiday season in this manner is like calling the civil rights movement an “attack on white people.” Framing progress for minority rights as an assault on the majority is, to me, almost wholly un-American.
I could understand the other side of this debate if the transition to a more accepting society was coming at a cost to Christmas. To my knowledge, however, Americans are still free to celebrate Christmas as they wish in their homes. They are still free to have Christmas parties. Everyone is still free to wish each other a “Merry Christmas.” In fact, I often use the greeting for friends whom I know to be practicing Christians.
It is only when our children must detract from their studies for exercises in exclusion (the Christmas carol assembly) or when our government institutes actions that degrade the separation of church and state that I take offense. Those who believe that there is an assault on Christmas are really looking to aid in the degradation of the church-state separation. Proclaiming Christmas to be the master holiday of school celebrations is an assault on the freedom of religion.
We should all feel comfortable celebrating our respective holidays, or choosing to celebrate nothing at all. But we should also consider our fellow citizens, and think about saying “Happy Holidays” a little more often when we aren’t sure of a person’s religious leanings.
-The writer, a junior majoring in international affairs, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.